With just minutes left to run in the 2020 Petit Le Mans, the race leaders collided as Ricky Taylor tried a daring move on Pipo Derani for the lead of the race. Taylor, in the #7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05c, ran out of room as he hit the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R., sending Derani into the gravel trap.
Renger Van Der Zande, who had been reeling in the leading pair, was suddenly thrown into the fray. “They crashed, they crashed, they crashed!” Van Der Zande’s engineer exclaimed on the radio. With the #7 Acura facing backwards and the #31 Cadillac beached in the gravel trap, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. of Van Der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon cruised through to take the lead and the win at Road Atlanta.
This race will likely go down as one of the more unforgettable editions of Petit Le Mans. With long green-flag runs, constant traffic interruptions, and little attrition, the race was hard to get a read of. The #7 Acura and the #31 Cadillac emerged as favourites in the final extended green flag running, though. The two cars battled for the lead through sunset to the race’s final moments.
The collision between the two opened the door for the #10 Cadillac which had spent most of the race hovering on the edges of the top three. The team battled a battery issue early in the race and had no air conditioning. Van Der Zande started the final stint of the race with a thirty-second gap to the #7 Acura and the #31 Cadillac. He had brought that gap down to roughly ten seconds when the race-defining crash occurred.
Race control reviewed the incident and decided that no further action was needed, meaning the #7 Acura got away without a penalty. The car crossed the line in second after Taylor was able to get the car back going in the right direction after the incident. While race control was finished with the incident, Derani was not.
NBC Sports’ cameras captured Derani approach Taylor, who was surrounded by teammate Helio Castroneves and brother Jordan Taylor, after the race. The conversation at first appeared civil but it soon turned aggressive with Jordan Taylor grabbing Derani’s arm and Castroneves getting in the Derani’s face. All while Ricky Taylor sat with his head down.
Ricky Taylor and Derani eventually stepped away from the crowd and had a one-on-one conversation with each other that looked respectful. It was certainly the most intense off-track drama the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has seen this season.
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) October 18, 2020
“We showed all weekend that we were going to be tough to beat and it played out that way in the race. I hate the way that it ended and in no way did I mean to take out the 31 car,” Taylor said. “It’s Petit Le Mans. Everyone wants to win this race and I saw an opportunity to do that for my team,” he added.
The #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05c rounded out the podium in DPi. This car was involved in an incident with an LMP2 car. Dane Cameron was on board when he swiped the side of the #8 Tower Motorsports by Starworks ORECA 07. That contact left the car with some damage that was repaired.
The #6 Acura seemed like it would be the one that carried the banner for the team in the early stages of the race, but the #7 Acura rebounded once Alexander Rossi and Taylor got on board.
In what is becoming a traditional kind of race for the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing w/ JDC-Miller Cadillac DPi-V.R. had no issues, kept out of trouble, and out of sight but still could not manage a podium finish. The all-French driver lineup of Sebastian Bourdais, Tristan Vautier, and Loic Duval just did not have the pace to mount a serious challenge to the top cars in the class. This was Duval’s Petit Le Mans debut, a remarkable stat considering the lofty achievements of the sportscar veteran.
For Mazda, this race will be one to forget and it was one that effectively ended before sunset. The #55 Mazda RT-24P suffered a brake issue that nearly sent Harry Tincknell into the #8 ORECA in the first hour of the race. That car went to the garage where the team replaced both of the front brakes, it finished the race sixth in class, 19 laps behind the winning Cadillac.
The #77 Mazda did not fare much better. Oliver Jarvis was hit by the #63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 when he emerged from the pits. The contact sent Jarvis into the wall and resulted in significant damage to the car. It too was repaired by the team and finished the race seventh, thirty-three laps down.
Last in DPi was the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R. That car went into the tyre barriers at Turn 1 in the first half-hour of the race. Gabriel Aubry was on board but there was no camera that captured the incident, so it was not clear what went wrong. Aubry, Matheus Leist, and Chris Miller finished the race fifty-four laps down.
With this win, the #10 Cadillac team extend their lead in the championship. Van der Zande and Briscoe now have an eight-point advantage on Castroneves and Taylor and a twelve-point lead over Derani who sits in third.
In GTLM, the #911 Porsche 911 RSR took home a much-needed win for Porsche in its final year of IMSA competition. Frederic Makowiecki, Nick Tandy, and Matt Campbell brought home the brand’s first win of the season in a year that has been simply dreadful for the team.
From being forced to miss Mid-Ohio due to COVID-19 to the two cars crashing into each other at Sebring and a double-retirement from the Charlotte ROVAL, it has been a strenuous year. Tandy, in the post-race interview, touched on the emotions of the team. With the programme ending at the end of the season, he noted that some members of the team have already moved on to new roles elsewhere.
“We’ve had people already leave the team for good reason, for their futures, but it’s tough when you get to know the people you have been working with and they’re not around we’ve had to group together as a team and as a two-car operation. We’ve managed to bag the first victory and it means a lot,” Tandy said in a sombre tone.
Tandy attributed the win to the team’s never-give-up attitude. “I can certainly attribute it to good people, good teams, and great co-drivers… It’s this team belief that even when things are going wrong… you never give up. We stuck around,” he said.
The #3 Corvette C8.R of Jordan Taylor, Antonio Garcia, and Nicky Catsburg finished the race in second. Corvette seemed to be betting on the conditions at night being more in their favour, but those tides never really turned. They could easily match the pace of the BMWs and Porsches, but they couldn’t get past them as easily as they would have liked, it’s a testament to just how close the GTLM battle was throughout the entire race.
For much of the race, the #24 BMW M8 GTE of John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, and Augusto Farfus led the class and it looked like the trio was well on their way to a victory after making their final pit stop in the lead of the race.
Farfus, though, was forced onto the grass at the exit of Turn 12 in the final hour. That left the car with a significant amount of grass on the grill that was causing the engine and brakes to overheat to a critical level. This forced Farfus to pit and concede the lead and, potentially, the race win. The #24 BMW was the lead car for the BMW stable after the #25 BMW M8 ran into mechanical issues early in the race.
The #25 BMW finished the race last in class, thirty-two laps down.
The race ended under Full Course Yellow conditions which were caused by the #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor hitting the #12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3 in the Esses.
The contact sent both cars into the barrier at high speed and left race control with no option but to call for an FCY with under five minutes left to run, not enough time to restart the race. The #912 Porsche finished the race in fifth.
Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin are still searching for their first Petit Le Mans win as a duo after ending this year’s race in fourth. Milner, Garcia, and Marcel Fassler were in contention in the first half of the race but drifted back as the race progressed.
Gavin described this Petit Le Mans as the hardest of his career after suffering a bicycle incident earlier in the week “I’ve had hurt ribs after an incident biking earlier this week. I felt good around Wednesday, but it became apparent Thursday that it was going to be a struggle in the car,” Gavin said. That injury left Milner and Fassler with the bulk of the driving work.
After skipping two rounds so Cooper MacNeil could focus on other championships, the #63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 returned to IMSA competition with a bang as MacNeil, Jeff Westphal, Alessandro Balzan took home the win in GTD.
GTD, as it always is, was hard to predict. An array of cars held control of the lead at various stages of the race, but the #63 Ferrari was always near the front of the field. Their stiffest competition ended up being the #14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3 which was on a slightly different fuel strategy to them.
“It is was a real team effort today,” Westphal said. “Cooper and Ale did a great job all race keeping the car in front of the field. I just happened to be the one that closed at the end. The Scuderia Corsa guys had the WeatherTech Ferrari hooked-up at the end. They put the car into a window where it would be good when it got cold at night. The colder it got, the better the car got. It was a pleasure to drive. A great win for the team,” Westphal added.
Westphal and Balzan kept the pace up enough to keep the Lexus behind him, though. While the #63 Ferrari got the win, the more intriguing story in the class was actually the #14 Lexus.
That #14 Lexus was nowhere for most of the race and was even a lap down on pure pace at one point. It was shaping up to be a disaster for the championship aspirations of Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz. If they couldn’t compete on pace than they would have to compete on strategy.
It looked like the Lexus would need to make an additional stop before the end of the race, but the team had Hawksworth stretch his penultimate stint long enough for them to get within a fuel window that would get them to the end of the race. That allowed them to leapfrog many other GTD runners and bring home a second-place finish that vaulted the team from third in the championship, to leading the field.
In the team’s championship, the #14 Lexus has a two-point lead over the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and a five-point advantage on the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3.
— Ryan Kish (@KishRM) October 18, 2020
This was a pivotal race for the #86 Acura who suffered a broken suspension with under three hours to run after contact with the #23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage. They ended the race in tenth, fourteen laps down.
“The contact all happened so fast because there were so many cars around me at once. I noticed coming under the bridge (after Turn 10) that we had damage and just missed the pit entrance,” McMurry, who was driving at the time of the incident, said.
The #44 GRT Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of John Potter, Andy Lally, and Spencer Pumpelly rounded out the podium. Like the #14 Lexus, the #44 Lamborghini recovered from a woeful first half to have a stand-out second half that got them a spot on the podium.
It was yet another consistent finish for the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche who keep their name in the championship conversation with a fourth-place result here. The car, like most in GTD, lead the race at various points.
“I’m proud of the team to bring home a fourth-place, it looked like we might battle for a podium, but we just came up a little bit short. It was a good points day, we regained second-place in the points, and it looks like it’s going to go right down to the wire…” Patrick Long said after the race.
All three retirements in the race came in GTD. The #30 Hardpoint Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 retired after what the team described as a mechanical failure.
The #74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG retired with what was reported to be a blown engine.
The only car to retire from the race as a result of contact was the ##23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage whose day ended after contact with the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3.
After falling victim to contact with a DPi car, the #8 Tower Motorsports by Starworks rebounded to take home the win in LMP2. Mikkel Jensen, Job van Uitert and John Farano had a remarkable race. From Farano spinning in the opening laps to van Uitert being hit by a DPi car, it was a busy day for the team.
Jensen chased down and passed Scott Huffaker in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07 with just over an hour to run. Soon after losing the lead, the #52 ORECA suffered a suspension failure which sent it behind the wall and dropped it down to last in class and a late-race retirement, a heartbreaking result for the team who led for nearly eight hours.
The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA 07 ended the race in second. Inter Europol, in their North American debut, secured a podium finish. They were never favourites for the win, but Inter Europol kept at it and were rewarded with a podium when the #52 ORECA went behind the wall and have now confirmed their return for next month’s Sebring 12 Hours.
“A lot of firsts this weekend and best of all a first LMP2 podium finish,” Inter Europol team manage Sascha Fassbender said. “It was a fantastic experience and we are looking forward [and taking] all we learned from here and [putting it] to good use in Sebring in four weeks… The team… is extremely motivated.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a sprint-race from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 30 – Nov. 1